Lake Tahoe Blue swept at home by Southern Oregon
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The Lake Tahoe Blue hockey club played its style of hockey against Southern Oregon last weekend — but couldn’t avoid a pair of frustrating defeats on home ice. The Blue were swept by the Spartans in a two-game series at South Lake Tahoe Ice Arena, including a tight 4-3 loss in the series finale Saturday.
“I’m proud of our guys — we’re growing some whiskers,” Blue head coach Mike Richardson said. “It sucks that we’re on this losing streak, but we’re growing.”
In the series opener Friday night, a slow start cost Lake Tahoe in an 8-4 loss. Southern Oregon scored the first four goals, had a 4-1 lead after the opening period — and rode that to victory.
“It took us 20 minutes to get established and I thought the last 40 we were in control — but when you’re down 4-1, it’s a hard hole to climb out of,” Richardson said.
Forward David Raus got the Blue on the board with 1:06 left in the first period, a close range goal that came off assists from forwards Alexander Lobachev and Julius Bauermeister. Raus finished with two goals and an assist in the series-opening loss, and played with a physical presence in both games.
“David had a really good game — he’s coming along,” Richardson said. “We’ve been working on his play away from the puck, and he’s becoming stronger that way — when you play strong away from the puck, your game is going to increase when you’re at the puck because you already control the ice rink.”
Both teams traded goals in the first three minutes of second period — Lake Tahoe trailed 5-2 at the second intermission. Southern Oregon struck 36 seconds into the period, and Lake Tahoe answered with a Lobachev goal with 17:17 left in the frame — the second period featured the only fight of the series, a short exchange between Blue defenseman Matt Brzozowiec and Spartans defenseman Zach Lovelace.
“Our guys did a pretty good job of sticking to what we wanted to accomplish and we stayed out of it — they tried to muck it up, but we played our game and went from there,” Richardson said.
With 17:01 left in the third period, Raus batted the puck out of midair for his second goal to make it 5-3 — but Southern Oregon answered with two goals to put the game out of reach. Forward Sheamus Stoyle scored a redirected goal on the power play with 6:57 remaining, but that’s as close as the Blue would get the rest of the way.
“We got the goal right away, but then the next shift out we took it off — and they scored again,” Richardson said. “That next shift out was a critical shift — they scored and it took the momentum away from us.”
In his third appearance this season, Blue goaltender Michael Cowell allowed eight goals on 54 shots. It was the most goals he has allowed this year.
“I don’t think we had great goaltending tonight — he knows it, he’s upset about it and we’ll make sure he gets better there,” Richardson said. “I think he was a little nervous and I don’t know why.”
On Saturday, Lake Tahoe lost to the Spartans 5-4 for its 10th straight defeat. The Blue matched Southern Oregon throughout the contest, but were ultimately sunk by three Southern Oregon short-handed goals.
“Special teams either wins or loses you games, and today it lost this one,” Richardson said. “Our power play was good today, but we gave up three short-handed goals and that right there was the difference.”
Lake Tahoe trailed 3-2 after the second period, and began the third on a power play. The Blue took a chance on the opening face-off, and the risk backfired — Southern Oregon stole the puck and it led to a Mackenzie Wood goal seven seconds into the frame.
“We tried to run a special face-off and we didn’t execute it properly,” Richardson said. “The puck didn’t get deep enough, and our wingers didn’t lock.”
With 1:44 left, Raus scored on the power play to make the score 5-4. Lake Tahoe took a timeout with 1:02 to play, but wasn’t able to pull even before the buzzer despite three trips into the Southern Oregon zone.
“It took us a little bit to get started, but we got our feet going and we played really well,” Richardson said. “All three zones were pretty crisp — that was a pretty complete game played by both sides.”
Lake Tahoe trailed 1-0 after the first period, and both teams traded a pair of goals in the second. Stoyle and forward Charlie Hammerback each scored on the power play for the Blue, which went 3-for-9 in defeat.
“We’re getting to a point in the season where everyone knows everyone,” Richardson said. “We did a really good job shutting them down, and did a better job of creating chances.”
The losses dropped Lake Tahoe’s record to 4-17-1-0 on the season — the team currently sits at the bottom of the WSHL Northwest Division with nine points. The Blue’s last 10 games have come against the top two teams in its division — and they’ll face second-place Southern Oregon again when divisional play resumes Jan. 9.
“We’re doing some really good things — we just need to make sure we stick to it,” Richardson said. “We’re going to come out of it and we’re going to be fine — it’s just kind of hard right now doing this 10 games in a row.”
Lake Tahoe returns to action at the Western States Shootout in Las Vegas Dec. 16-20 — the showcase will feature 28 teams and is geared toward college exposure for players. The Blue will play five games in five days — opponents include the Wichita Jr. Thunder, Arizona Redhawks, Colorado Evolution and Dallas Snipers.
“It’s a huge opportunity for our guys — normally the scouts have to watch everything on video and now the scouts are there in person with commitment letters in their hands,” Richardson said. “It’s going to be a good weekend for our guys.”